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Living with a death sentence

Ivana Pelisek | Interrobang | News | September 15th, 2008



You wake up thinking to yourself it's a normal day like any other, right? Or do you?

You get out of bed, do the usual; shower, get dressed. But why is today so different you ask? Because you discovered you have HIV.

Kevin Murphy is a healthy 32-year-old male who enjoys music, tattooing, great friends and is in a committed relationship. On the exterior Murphy is like everyone else.

Eight years ago Murphy was given news that changed his life and enabled him to be the person he is at present.

Being diagnosed with HIV in December of 2000, Murphy still vividly remembers how his emotions took over on that very day.

“I was very distraught and upset,” recalled Murphy.


He was scared and unsure about life anymore and was not expecting the news he received.

The doctor told Murphy was HIV positive, with the door open into the waiting room, making him feel helpless and alone.

Following his physical, it was his mom who held it together for the both of them. Murphy tried hard not to get choked up, and if it was not for his mom, he knows how differently it would've gone.

Murphy first went to get tested so he could receive a working Visa in order to head back to Texas and continue singing in his band. That dream was no longer a reality, but a clear indication of what was not going to happen.

On a separate occasion, Murphy visited a dentist who was informed of his HIV status. Having agreed on performing surgery on his wisdom teeth, after the procedure the dentist bluntly blurted out “clean up extra well after this guy. He has AIDS.”

“I was in shock and embarrassed and left the room quickly,” reminisced Murphy.

At the present, Murphy is unable to work. Each month Murphy's medication, which is required for his survival, costs an average of $2,500.

“The hardest thing to live with is taking my pills everyday, said Murphy.

“I'm like, Damn! I have to take these pills, it's the only thing I have control over.”

There's a lot of pressure and stigma due to HIV and Aids.

Murphy feels people are uneducated about the disease and make assumptions about something that is entirely false.

Following his diagnosis, Murphy took it upon himself to get more educated and wanted to be more aware of the stigma people place on people living with HIV.

It was at this time he contacted the AIDS Committee of London.

He is now an avid member of the Aids Committee of London, and volunteers roughly 30 hours a week. To better help understand his message, Murphy speaks to nursing students at Fanshawe College, UWO and also speaks to kids at Youth Detention Centres.

Murphy believes he sends a great message when speaking with youth about protecting themselves and understanding that HIV is a preventable disease.

His goal is to have people leave his seminars and workshops feeling inspired, and if he can change one person's stigma about HIV, he has done something worthwhile.

“I feel great when I have shared something with someone about clear information,” explained Murphy.

“The only way that people will find out about HIV and AIDS is through conversation and education, not just through government stats. It is the people who are infected or affected with the virus who truly know what to talk about.”

“During the first zero — six months of getting infected, is when the virus is most contagious. At this time most people don't even think twice about getting tested because symptoms don't necessarily show yet,” said Murphy. According to Murphy, an estimated 30 per cent of those infected do not know they have HIV. Staggering, yes, but what if those individuals are continually engaging in risky behaviour.

“People need to be educated and have open discussions concerning HIV and being able to associate a face with it,” advised Murphy. Murphy continues to live in London where he is a respectable member of society.

“I believe I am doing a great thing in this community and I hold a respectable position. I have respect for life now and compassion since finding out I am HIV positive. I no longer take things for granted, and take extra precaution because of my HIV,” said Murphy.

By being able to speak at schools and detention centres, Murphy can now cope with his HIV status.

“I am in a committed relationship with someone who is HIV negative. I take care of my niece twice a week and I encourage others to not have stigma against people who have HIV,” he said.

“Although I am constantly searching for my place in the world, I believe I am in the right place, doing the right things, for the right reasons."

Walk to help

Just imagine what it would be like to one day wake up, and realize that that day might just be your last day on earth.

The worldwide spread of HIV / Aids may seem hard for most to comprehend, but for those living with the ‘more than not' fatal disease is as real as it comes.

But there is a mission to stop the worldwide spread of this disease that is claiming the lives of young and old persons infected.

Scotiabank's Aids Walk for Life is Canada's most important HIV / AIDS fundraising and awareness event to date. During this now Canada-wide event cities and communities from all across the country host walks in order to raise funding in order to help those infected.

- The first walk took place in Vancouver in 1986.
- What exactly is HIV? It is a sickness that attacks the body's immune system and as a result reduces the body's chance to fight disease and infection. When infected with HIV, the body is highly susceptible for being infected with AIDS.
- The HIV infection is treated with anti-retroviral drugs, which target the different ways the virus infects healthy blood cells. The drugs, although effective, can become resistant to the medication if the virus mutates. These drugs can cause severe side effects, which can lead to other life threatening illnesses.
- A study, conducted at the end of 2005, found approximately 58,000 people were living with HIV / AIDS in Canada alone.
- Approximately 27 per cent of those infected with either HIV or AIDS living in Canada do not know they carry the virus.
- Worldwide, there are approximately 33.2 million people living with the disease.
- The Aids Walk for Life fundraiser is an inspiration for those who believe one day a cure may be found in order to properly treat HIV / AIDS.
- To date, more than half a million Canadians have participated in the Scotiabank Aids Walk for Life from coast to coast.

“Our society needs to be more educated about the seriousness of the illness and people need to be made more comfortable talking about it and get involved,” said Executive Director in Ottawa Monique Doo-Little Romas.

“Volunteers are not required to donate or collect pledges (although we will happily accept all donations). Volunteers are donating their time and energy to the success of the event,” said Jim Billing, Development Volunteer Coordinator.

If you would like to get involved or donate to the London AIDS Walk for Life visit their website at www.aidswalkforlife.ca/London.htm. Registation for the walk begins at 11 am Sunday, September 21 in Victoria Park.
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